At this point, you’re probably fully aware of how hot it is. But in case you’re unaware: It’s really, really hot.
In fact, 2016 is likely to be the hottest year on record, increasing 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.3 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial averages.
That brings us dangerously close to the 2.7-degree-Fahrenheit (1.5-degree-Celsius) limit set by international policymakers for global warming.
“There’s no stopping global warming,” Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist who is the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, told Business Insider. “Everything that’s happened so far is baked into the system.”
That means that even if carbon emissions dropped to zero tomorrow, we’d still be watching human-driven climate change play out for centuries. And, as we all know, emissions aren’t going to stop tomorrow. So the key thing now, Schmidt said, is slowing climate change down enough to make sure we can adapt to it as painlessly as possible.
This is what the Earth could look like within 100 years if we do, barring huge leaps in renewable energy or carbon-capture technology.
“I think the 1.5-degree [2.7-degree F] target is out of reach as a long-term goal,” Schmidt said. He estimated that we will blow past that by about 2030.
But Schmidt is more optimistic about staying at or under 3.6 degrees F, or 2 degrees C, above preindustrial levels — the level of temperature rise the UN hopes to avoid.
Let’s assume we land between those two targets. At the end of this century, we’re already looking at a world that is on average 3 degrees or so Fahrenheit above where we are now.
But average surface temperature alone doesn’t fully capture climate change. Temperature anomalies — or how much the temperature of a given area is deviating from what would be “normal” in that region — will swing wildly.
For example, the temperature in the Arctic Circle last winter soared above freezing for one day. It was still cold for Florida, but it was extraordinarily hot for the arctic. That’s abnormal, and it will start happening a lot more.
That means years like this one, which had the lowest sea-ice extent on record, will become common. Summers in Greenland could become ice-free by 2050.
NASA Goddard Flickr